Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
2,850.00 ft (868.68 m)
Trail type
9.20 mi (14.81 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

There are several Big Bear Lakes in California, and even more spread across the Western U.S. When there's a Big Bear Lake, there's usually a Little Bear Lake nearby, and the Bear Lakes Basin in the Trinity Alps Wilderness is no exception. Wee Bear Lake lives up to its appellation and adds unique scenery and opportunities to the Trinity Alps version of the Three Bears.

The Bear Lakes Basin lies within an island of granite set about 20 miles northeast from the core of the Trinity Alps. Bear Creek drains the basin and meets the Trinity River right next to the trailhead. Start your trek toward the Bear Lakes and you will come across a bridge after a little more than a mile. Unless you want to bushwack down to Bear Creek, this is the last reliable water source for several miles. The next mile after the bridge rides a narrow ridge and and has more sun than the first leg of the hike.

The second half of the trail will put a spring in your step as the granite walls surrounding you begin to show themselves above and around stands of incense cedar and fir. The trail will often level out through carpets of fern to give your legs a brief rest. One of the last level stretches will feature two noticeably large ponderosa pine trees. Pass the two trees and the trail steepens with the assistance of well placed rock steps. Fern and other soft brush close in on the trail at this point, so pants may be helpful.

The trail empties out onto the outlet of Big Bear Lake. The creek here flows over slabs of granite and makes for a wonderful playground with great views of Mount Shasta. Keep going another quarter of a mile to reach Big Bear Lake. Sticking on the trail, this adventure is about 9.5 miles long round trip. If you seek more adventure and enjoy cross-country route finding, the traverse to Wee Bear Lake and Little Bear Lake will add about a mile each way. The cairns marking the way begin on the south side of Bear Creek near where the established trail first encounters the granite playground. As you wrap around the mountainside you will eventually see a V in the granite showing the outlet of Wee Bear Lake.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Not Required


Great views. Wildflowers. Meadows.


Limited camping spots.

Trailhead Elevation

3,020.00 ft (920.50 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Geologically significant

Suitable for




Has anyone been here since the fires? What is the condition of the area?
Was happily surprised to have seen someone else had done this trip. It is definitely one heck of a trek as it is uphill basically the whole way. Well worth it with the views and the wonderful lakes. We did it back in September and the weather was ideal. This is great for those of you who want to get out from the more popular congested hikes here in the north state as not many people will be out there. Bonus for the summit baggers out there, the summit above Big Bear Lake can be scrambled/bouldered up. It is not named but it offers a challenging ascent and a great view of the region!
Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.